Sunday, July 26, 2015

Koko and the Beanstalk

Slacking off again.  As usual, I gotta keep this one short, even though it's a Fleischer Inkwell short that's twice the length of a normal one.  And as you can guess from my banner headline, and from the title of the short proper, Jumping Beans (1922), it's a racist tirade against those people to the South of California... I mean, it's yet another retelling of Jackson and that damn beanstalk, which I don't think started out as a metaphor for American imperialism, but rather an alternative to the tower of Babel.  Anything that man can't do, nature surely can!
We start once again with the busy hands of Max Fleischer as he draws some stuff on his canvas.  There's a pretty cool effect here that anyone who's used Adobe/Macromedia Flash for any length of time will surely appreciate.  Max creates a virtual lasso of ink which slowly but surely wraps itself around Koko's outline.
As usual, Max f... messes with Koko, and Koko is unable to free himself completely from the ink lasso.  Max has to get a pair of scissors to cut Koko free... shyeah, right.  Total plot device.  Total plot ploy.  The remainder of the lasso piles itself atop Koko's head, thereby creating Kid of Kid 'n Play fame!
Okay, enough of Act One messing around.  Time to introduce the new conceit to this thing.  Max gets out this big ol' box that says "Mexican Jumping Beans" upon it.  He opens the box and out comes about a baker's dozen of jumping beans.  Man!  That's kind of a ripoff!  I guess they need a lot of space.  But those were the days.  If they were selling 'em these days, they'd cram them into an Altoids box or something, tighter than chickens at a factory that supplies McDonald's.  Max lets them jump around on his table a little bit.  Koko gets scared by them, lol.  Well, Koko's about their size, so... it's like if we humans are facing off with a rabid pit bull... okay, a Red Zone case that Cesar Millan hasn't rehabilitated yet.  Better?  It gets worse for poor embattled Koko, as the beans jump into the canvas.  The horizon line remains split in half the way Max left it unfinished.  Lol.  Koko says "Get that thing outta here!" as a jumping bean gets close to him... okay, okay, verbatim.  Koko says (and I quote) "Hey!  Take it away.  Take it away!!!!!!!"  Max feels Koko's pain, so what does he do?  Yup, you guessed it!  Max throws the rest of the jumping beans into the canvas for Koko to avoid.  Wotta jerk.  But perhaps Max has the right idea, because Koko eventually conquers his fear of the Monolith... I mean, the jumping beans, and now is trying to grab one.  The bean commandeers Koko's hat, and the hat starts jumping around.  Hey!  This is more fun than the bubble!  Max just sits back and laughs, kinda like Dean Martin at the Three Stooges in that 4 for Texas movie... I believe that was the one.... yup.  Oh, what silly old men.
ACT TWO
And so, Koko gets the idea to plant the jumping bean, and he digs a hole with his feet like a dog while holding the jumping bean on the ground.  The bean starts to sprout, but Koko stamps down on the ground where the lump is.  Wotta jerk.  Max intervenes and feeds the bean some drops of water.  And then... BOOM!  Your epic beanstalk reaches for the sky.  O joy!  O bliss!  Endless profits!  Our troubles are over!  Ah, but there can be only one, because it's a kind of magic... something like that.  The sun looks on in horror as the stalk grows up past it.
And so, Koko begins to climb... is that Max giving us the finger at about 3:47 on the videodisc?  Let me examine this a little closer... nah, he's just pointing at something.  Happened to Gumby all the time.  Clokey's hands occasionally get into the shot.  Well, what can be said?  These things are exciting to put together!  Mistakes get made!
Anyway, back to this late breaking story.  There's a clever shot of Max talking to Koko, and the camera's up high, looking down on Max.  Genius.  Okay, not Einstein genius, but close.  I guess I have to qualify it as "on-the-fly" genius or split genius between small and large.  But I think we can all agree that someone at some point said, "Ooh!  We should have the camera looking down on Max!  You know, Koko's point of view?"  To which they replied, "That's silly.  Just have the camera at face level with Max looking up... hmm.  Maybe you got something there.  Why don't we try it both ways just to have some coverage?"  And so, Koko keeps climbing, as egged on by Max.  This is more epic than the time Koko fiddled with the lever that destroys the world.  That one doesn't seem to be on this DVD collection!  Boo.  And so, Koko keeps climbing, up past the comedy planets, past the chubby, smiling, Anglo-Saxon-looking crescent moon, and up past the warning sign they placed on the beanstalk proper, occasionally looking back down at the earth below.  Guess he made a lot of the distance early on.
And finally, he reaches the top.  Now, it doesn't exactly look like the land of clouds that we were always told that it was in the fairy tale and in other incessant incarnations of the same story.  No, it looks more like Time Bandits or something.  We eventually see the landscape, and it looks like a combination of sandy desert, and Russian spires in Moscow's Red Square.  Very Baron Munchausen-ish!
And so, Koko gets busy exploring this wondrous new world, running towards the cityscape until... yup, here comes the giant.  There's a visual gag involved that I dare not spoil, but we do get the trademark "Fe Fi Fo Fum," and the chase is on.  The animation looks a little clunky on that giant when he's following Koko... and I love it!  And then... yup, Koko manages to hide from the giant long enough to make the giant run past.  I don't believe it.  But it works, and Koko heads right back to the stalk.  He prays, he tries to climb down, but he's too paralyzed by fear.  And then... he starts falling.  Falling, yes, Koko's falling, and he keeps calling me back again.  You can tell that Koko's getting closer to earth because the background gets lighter and lighter.
And then... BOOM.  Koko makes a snow angel in the ground... except that there's no snow, and it's actually a deep Koko-shaped hole that he quickly uses a ladder to climb out of.  He then pulls up the bottom of the hole to smooth out the ground again, thereby simplifying the animators' jobs.  Dayamn!  That was a faster recovery than the giant at the end of... Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk.  Of course, that impact crater looked more like the Grand Canyon.  Also, it's arguably not as fun as the comparatively more iconic Beanstalk Bunny.... "He's Jack!"  Love that.
ACT THREE
And yet, despite everything, despite the rousing adventure, despite surviving the fall without a lengthy stay in hospital... Koko is strangely ungrateful.  "Just wait, I'll fix you for this," Koko tells the audience... or is it just Max?  Frankly, I feel a little guilty myself.  And so, as often happens in these Max v. Koko battles, it's time for a little equitability.  Koko's got a pen of his own, and he draws himself a nice rubber stamp, carving out a shape of himself on it.  Ah, narcissism.  He then draws an inkpad, and it's time for the replication process to begin!  Um... Koko gets a little help from some dark magic in making these lifeless images take form.  And so, that Halloween episode "Send in the Clones" is bourne.  Koko creates a giant army of Kokos, and once they're all assembled, the original Koko gives the order: "Get that guy with the mustache!"  Alas, America's current mustache fetish has a price after all.  And so, the Kokos all run past the stamp pad... which seems to blink out of existence once per second.  At about 7:51 on the video disc.  Sloppy work, guys, sloppy work.
Oh, I don't care for this type of insurrection.  "What are you up to NOW?" asks Max as the army of Kokos advances, four deep.  Why, it's positively worse than the cockroaches in Creepshow 1!  Less sanitary by far.  Oh, but the homages aren't done yet.  Max gets backed into a corner, where a Lasso Unit of Kokos is waiting.  One Koko throws a lasso over Max, and Max has a rather difficult time trying to get it off.  A second Lasso Unit launches a volley.  Soon, Max is in a tighter bind than Gulliver ever was!  And it's still seventeen years off!  If Max isn't the Babe Ruth of animators, well... I don't know who is.
And so, the Kokos are triumphant, and they start dancing over Max's freedomless living body, and it's all Max can do but look on in horror... oh well.  Okay, so they didn't have the time nor the expertise to manage more than one still frame of Max.
Now, you know me... I hate to bring current events into these things.  But I did see a thing online on the computer about an up and coming documentary about Walt Disney.  They had quotes from Walt Disney "experts" saying that there's no evidence of Walt being anti-Semitic... or at least, any more or less anti-Semitic than anyone else in Hollywood at that time.  Sweet vindication at last.  Of course, I can't help but think to myself, 1) that they have to say that at all makes it true, and 2) he sure seemed to hate them Fleischer boys!  Bet he wasn't sorry to see them go out of business after Pearl Harbor, as was apparently the case!  In any event, I'll stick up for Walt in this one instance, for Max pulls out a little pocket knife in order to cut himself loose from the binds of the Koko army.  What gutter trash.
Anyway, true to the Inkwell short traditions, the Koko army now has a second mission.  But what on earth could it be?  They're using ropes to climb all over Max's office, but why?... oh, now I get it!  I'm very slow at figuring these things out.  Geez, no wonder the State won't hire me!  They don't want morons, that's for God damn sure.  And yet, I keep applying for their jobs.  Shame on me and my stupid mind.  Anyway, the Kokos are headed for that damn inkwell!  Into it they file, sliding down a rope.  Meanwhile, cut to Max who's almost broken completely free of the couple dozen ropes.  The arms race is on.  Will all the Kokos make it into the inkwell?  Or will Max catch the last couple and bring them to the Koko version of Guantanamo Bay?  The answer may surprise you... so I'll let you watch the end yourself.

****
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Vondie Curtis-Hall

Two in a row!  Dayamn, I'm on a hot streak, and I didn't even know it... nope, guess I still can't think of anything nice to say.  And apparently, probably none of the critics of his 2001 feature, Glitter, starring Mariah Carey and... some others.  Of course, hangin' with the IMDb Bottom 100 is a competition in and of itself.  You gotta grapple with everything from old masters like Manos: The Hands of Fate to flashes in the pan like Saving Christmas, which seems to be what The Shawshank Redemption is to the IMDb Top 250.  But Kirk's just happy to be starring in something... anything... other than another damn Kendrick production.  And then, of course, there's the threat of the rest of the world horning in on the action, what with entries like Himmatwala and Turks in Space.
Oh, but enough about that because, like the rest of you, I remember this guy from his memorable appearance in Falling Down as that black dude who's not economically viable.  He's lightly ranting in the streets about the sorry state of the nation, and that he can't get a break.  Those were the days when the police would come and pick up a black dude without tasing him to death... mostly because tasers weren't in wide circulation then.  "Remember me!" he says before driving off.  And somehow I did.
And besides, the silver screen's overrated anyway.  There's Gridlock'd and Waist Deep, but the rest seems to be TV movies and TV episodes of all your favourite shows.  Yes, Vondie will always make a beautiful dollar in this business, because he works fast and has given up trying to be an egotistical superstar... as far as I know.  Anyway, his marriage to slightly-better director Kasi Lemmons seems to be going strong.  You and I of course remember her as Jodie Foster's black cadet friend from The Silence of the Lambs.  Never go to bed angry, guys!

Suppose they Gave an Adam Sandler Movie and Nobody Came?

Greetings, my ten or eleven followers!  Let me double check... yup, it's eleven.  I so wanna check in with the box office this week, as I usually do.  Well, unfortunately, as implied by my banner headline for this post, Adam Sandler's latest, Pixels, does quite well at the box office, actually!  Sure, not enough to cover distribution or marketing costs, but it came in at #2!  That's... that's good news, right?  I just hate to think that there's ever a bad day in the Sandler household.  I mean, he's got kids, for Christ sake!  Kids.  Probably, I'm assumpting.  They get to hang out with Rumer Willis and kvetch about how hard life is.  Boy, the sheer numbers and attitudes of the O'Doyles in Hollywood!  Damn downright depressing.
I'm still waiting for those mini-docs about the CGI behind Pixels.  I want to hear one of these keyboard jockeys sit there and tell me that, oh, this is the hardest, most satisfying work I've ever done.  And I worked on the last Hobbit movie, too!  THAT was a pain in the ass.  I still don't understand how "Massive" works.  But Pixels?  What a personal and professional joy.  All those '80s video games, those icons bourne in the engineering department of Atari and Midway.  In 3D, no less!  That doubles the time in Renderman, that's for sure!  Okay, so it's personally satisfying, but don't tell me this represents a quantum leap in computer graphics for Hollywood in particular, and the world in general.  IT'S BLOCKS!  IT'S A GIANT PAC-MAN MADE OUT OF A BUNCH OF BOXES!  At least that giant Lego ball on Mythbusters existed in real life!  Let's see if that's on the series of YouTubes yet.  I must of... have made a link to it previous-like.  Must of... have.  And for those of you with no patience to watch the setup... here it is!  Ooh, and here's another good count to three.  Saw that again this weekend!  Shame on my lack of a comprehensive review.  Must've been busy that week.
Oh, but there's other debuts this week.  Can't forget them.  Up next, at #5, it's the latest from Jake Gyllenhaal, a boxing movie called Southpaw.  That's one of the seven plots, right?  There's astronaut, boxer... there's others, I'm sure.  Ooh, cowboy, lawyer (AKA courtroom cowboy), policeman, psychotic killer, and mathematical genius... nah, that can't be it.  Anyway, director Antoine Fuqua continues his slog through the humble 2010s, as opposed to his megastar 2000s.  I mean, Training Day!  ...something else!  WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?  ...oh, right.  King Arthur, among others.  Apparently, Hollywood believed they could sell any kind of Lord of the Rings-type deal and make tons of money.  Don't get me wrong; I'm actually kind of rooting for this guy.  I mean, he's the real deal!  He's not fuqua-ing around like Jody Hill or Kevin Smith.  This guy can direct.  Why, look what he's got in the pipeline!  A remake of... The Magnificent Seven?  Well, it's in the air, I guess.  We've got Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, we've got Sandler's The Ridiculous Six, it's just in the air.  Sure, the Robert Osborne types of the world will poo-pooh remaking the classics, but let's face it.  Who wants to watch an old movie with a bunch of dead people in it?  I mean, how does any reasonable person go to the water cooler and strike up a conversation about the veritable arms race between Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, mugging for the camera's attention in increasingly obnoxious ways?  And is Robert Vaughn just doing a bad Adam West impression?  Or is he really just that messed up as an on-screen presence and as a human being?  And whoa!  The rape comments.  How creepy was that?
Anyway, our third and final debut this week is called Paper Towns.  It's the latest adaptation from a guy named John Green and, according to his IMDb page, he and his brother have 2.5 million followers on the YouTubes.  And I've got eleven followers.  Clearly I have my fingers squarely on a dead pulse.  Oh well.  If I had known there would be such a market for all this "life in high school" crap, I would've taken better notes.  I mean, look at all these useless scribbles from German class.  USELESS!!!  Oh, I mean... NUTZLOS!!!
But John Green's got the right idea.  His Fault in Our Stars was a #1 movie.  A huge hit!  Now we've got the follow-up, Paper Towns.  I mean, just look at that.  Look at that sh... stuff.  You've got the young guy with the dead eyes, the young girl with the bitch face, you've got the title written in that indie poster style... isn't there a Vine or a Chive dedicated to that yet?  Anyway, things are bad enough as it is.  I don't want to heap up on John Green any more than the studios and his agent are already.  All weekend he has to listen to "It's okay, it's okay!  Towns did quite well among the demographic we wanted!  It could've done a little better, but... we still love you, man!  You're the man!  You're our guy!  You're our top earner!  At least, in 2014, you were... what?  No!  Nothing!  We love you!  How much do we have to repeat that?"  I gotta go, my tea's overbrewing again.
Of course, the big non-cinema news, at least for me, is the dash-cam footage of Sandra Bland's arrest.  Up until now, a lot of the news blurbs about her were saying "Yup, it's definitely suicide.  She definitely committed suicide in a Texas jail."  Well, I only saw portions of the video on Larry Wilmore's show, and after seeing that, I kinda felt like killing myself too!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Legend of Bubble Master

Boy!  Where does the time go?  I still gotta do Jumping Beans, for Gawd'z zake, you know what I mean?  Better keep this one short then.  Not that it's not a fun one.  As you can guess from the title, Bubbles, the concept of bubbles is thrown into the mix.  Koko sees a child's soap bubble floating around the Fleischer studios, and he turns into a veritable kid himself.  "Ooh!  A bubble!  Get it for me!" screams Koko, as he jumps around excitedly, pointing at it.  Ever the relative voice of reason, Max calms down Koko and draws a bubble-blowing pipe for the sad clown.  (Koko starts bawling when the bubble he saw hits the wall and pops.)
Of course, bubbles by themselves have no interest for the world-weary Max, so he challenges Koko to a bet.  Whoever blows the biggest bubble wins.  If Max wins, he gets to hit Koko on the nose... dude, what's that all about?  Worse than Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker!  And so, the contest begins... but I get the feeling that Max's bubble is fake.  But it does have all the light reflections and everything!  The animators had to work extra hard that week.
And so, while Max is indeed the bubble master he claims to be, even though he can't inflate bubbles like he used to in his carefree youth, Koko has a little harder time mastering the art of the bubble.  Koko's head ends up turning into a bubble, Koko gets trapped inside a bubble and bounces around (thereby creating the TV series, "The Prisoner"), what have you.  Ooh!  And he also predicted Michael Moschen at this one juncture.  I hate to think that all this stuff's pre-scripted in advance.  It's the animation equivalent of jazz, man.  The free flow of ideas.  Ideas running free through the meadow like wild horses... America still likes wild horses, right?  Even if it's just in theory.  Not in MY backyard, they don't!  No sir.
Anyway, Max wins the contest, of course.  Why, he barely pays attention to Koko's tribute to Escher!  I believe Koko calls it "Circle Limit V".  Or maybe "Regular Division of the Plane IV: Bubbles' Revenge."  I don't know.
But when Koko receives his bop on the nose, he's ready.  He's learned enough to put himself in a bubble and float around, and he does just that, floating his clown ass right out of the studio and into the world at large.  Alas, budget and time constraints don't allow him to tour the world like some second-rate Letterman sketch, but he does get to cause a little mischief.  He floats his bubble into a car's radiator, thereby getting Max in trouble.  And just to prove his mastery, having floated his bubble into some guy's radiator, Koko floats right back out and back up to the studio... thereby influencing a small part of "Futurama"... they had people floating in bubbles on the show somewhere.
Boy, but Max is always mad!  Max hurls a... what was that?  A pen?  Dude, that's cold.  Max hurls some kind of pen-like projectile and pierces Koko's bubble.  Koko lands in a glass of baking soda and vinegar.  More real-life bubbles. 
Well, I tell you one thing.  Walt Disney never had this kind of fun on celluloid.  That guy was always way too serious.  Oh, and Max also influenced a whole generation of baristas with his latest incarnation of Koko here.  Unfortunately, it was only until recently that Starbucks stopped using white acrylic in their coffee instead of cream.  Sad for all involved.  Another winner from the inkwell.

****
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Rusty Cundieff

...wait a minute!  I've actually HEARD of this guy!  Kinda nice for a change.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the 90s are his favourite decade of his career.  Young guy, getting his stuff on the silver screen, poised to be a comedy John Singleton.  But then....... life gets in the way, you hit that Hollywood glass ceiling, and you end up doing segments for Michael Moore.  Not bad, but somehow the passion's not the same.  Kinda tough doing things someone else's way, no?  Rusty's still fighting to keep from making that call to Neal Brennan to instantly improve his career, because he's seen so many friends make that same mistake.  Then again, Movie 43 was supposed to help, too, right?  Owwch.  Puts me in the mind of this probably apocryphal get-rich-quick scam I heard about a long time ago, where these twelve people met in a church basement or some such place, and each person was supposed to bring $2,000 to each meeting.  One lucky person would get $24,000.  Apparently eleven of the people were in on the scam, and when it was the 12th person's time to get the money... well, you can guess what happened.  See, Movie 43 had a bunch of directors... ah, skip it.  Movie 43, that is.  Seriously, don't waste your time watching it.  Unless it's on one of the Epix channels in HD, of course.

box office 7-19-15

...oh, right.  Wrong weekend.  Anyway, Marvel's latest, Ant-Man, debuts at #1.  Okay, so it's not Avengers-style nine-figure numbers.  I mean, who are you and I to judge, right?  Meanwhile, on the other side of the Googolplex, Judd Apatow's latest, Trainwreck, debuts at #3.  Sure, not great, and Whoopi Goldberg's somewhere smiling right now, but still, not bad for a summer release.  Even he gets tired of premieres in March or September.  Why can't he be in the big leagues?  At #10, it's Bill Condom's latest... I mean, Bill Condon, and it's about Sherlock Holmes.  Boy!  Robert Downey Jr.'s looking old!  To be fair to Condon, I just watched The Fifth Estate, and there was hardly any sex in it!  But we're squeamish in this household and we did have to search through the crucial scene where Assange's nerdy best friend gets it on with what's her name from the James Bond movies... is that where I saw her before?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How do you Know when you Run Out of Invisible Ink?

Ah, invisible ink.  Is there any animated cartoon convention that's hackier than that?  Maybe an animated version of Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" routine.  I guess it makes sense that they would make a move into mathemagic, seeing as how they delved into Godel Escher Bach territory with the "Who's on First" routine.  Sure, it's not a record player that plays other record players, but close!
Anyway, Max is hard at work in his studio, trying to draw black lines on white canvas, when suddenly... Koko appears, not on the canvas, but rather, he materializes inside of the inkwell he's constantly jumping into at the end of these affairs.  Why not have him start from there at the beginning?  He does in this instant case, and plays tug-of-war with Max and his nib.  Max ultimately triumphs and drags Koko out of the inkwell, but Koko doesn't do a lot of kicking and screaming.  Koko goes right into the 'running around like an idiot' part!  Max just wants a nice quiet day in the studio, and he draws an exit for Koko to use.  Welp, maybe it's just the oatmeal talking, but I finally feel the pain of whoever sang that song that goes "Do you know what it feels like, loving someone that's in a rush to throw you away?"  Also known as high school and college.  Who sang that anyway... Enrique?  Seriously?  Really?  Yikes!  I thought it was Cher!
Anyway, no matter how many times Max tries to get rid of Koko, he keeps coming back.  And not the very next day, either!  No, within a matter of seconds... kewl!  It's the uncensored version where the old guy says "What the fffffff..........."  See, when they show it on decent TV these days, they cut out the "f" part.  Oh, the word's still just that potent, kids.  Don't kid yourselves.  Anyway, back on the other track.  Max gets tired of chasing Koko around, and decides to pin him to the canvas with... is that a thumb tack?  I can't tell.  Then he draws a couple of locks and weights onto Koko for good measure.  Once Koko is sufficiently subdued, Max tests out his rather large bottle of invisible ink.  It's visible enough that we can see that the bottle's pretty full.  It also doubles as a good vodka substitute!  And so, Max dips his nib in the invisible ink and draws some gym equipment next to Koko.  Apparently, the line that Max drew earlier was the beginnings of a ladder, which Max finishes.  To cut to the chase, the quote unquote invisible ink turns black on the canvas... at least, at first.  Koko walks over towards the bicycle, but it suddenly VANISHES!  Then Koko heads for the ladder, and it disappears before he can climb it.  Koko does like Bruce Willis at the end of The Last Boy Scout and dances a jig.
"Where's your bicycle?" asks Max, who laughs like a Bond villain.  Oh, but Koko's no pushover.  Why, Max and Koko are like Groucho and Chico, in a ferocious struggle to one-up the other.  Koko starts riding around his invisible bicycle to the delight of all, and to the frustration of the animators, who have to do a little extra work with Koko's legs now.  Max is incredulous.  A bicycle drawn in invisible ink can still exist once it disappears?  Or is Koko just messing with Max?  Max can't figure it all out.
The novelty of invisible ink seems to be left aside at this point, as Max takes this opportunity to mess with Koko in other ways.  Max steals Koko's hat, then promises to give it back if Koko follows a line that Max draws, first in ink, then in chalk outside of the two dimensions of the white canvas.  Koko manages to turn the tables on Max, and draws a chalk line of his own!  HAH!  Equanimity achieved. 
With Max safely out of the studio, Koko returns and takes the opportunity to draw multiple copies of himself, much like the Agent in The Matrix Reloaded,... only without the bowling ball sound when they all get knocked over.
And then, for Koko's next act... oh, dude.  Koko knocks Max on the head with a big vase.  That clearly steps over the line.  Much like when the Bum Bar Bastards called Red and said "Get down here!  The bar's on fire!", dropping a vase on Max's head steps over the line.  Max returns to his studio to find multiple copies of Koko.  There's a montage similar to when Shelley Duvall sees the cobweb-covered skeletons in The Shining as Max looks on in horror to see groups of Koko's in various ballet-ish poses.  Koko left a note that says "Find me if you can!"  Max yells, "I'll find you alright, you rascal!"  Max's 'plan' to flush out the real Koko works, but Koko manages to evade Max's angry fists.  I'm omitting a lot of the little details, arguably, but I should probably point out that this may be the first and last time that Koko quite literally jumps down Max's throat.  And, just before Max chokes to death, Koko emerges from Max's right ear and dives head first into the bottle of invisible ink.  Koko eventually disappears, but he gets a downright genuine cross-fade made in the lab, rather than disappearing by animation technique like the gym equipment did earlier.  Still, this Koko short ponders the question: who's the more animated cartoon character?  Koko or Max?  This time, I think Max wins by a nose.

****
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Hanelle M. Culpepper

Sorry, been neglecting my duties again, and paying the price.  Anyway, according to her IMDb bio page, ... hoh boy... it says her career began when she was selected for Bill and Camille Cosby's program for African-American screenwriters, so chances are good that she got drugged and raped by Cosby.  She's mostly a documentary filmmaker, but she's such a professional that she knows there's some kind of inherent bias or conflict of interest in her making a bio about Cosby's rapey side.  Does Michael Moore have to do everything around here?  Incidentally, what's he up to these days?  Lucky Numbers 2? ... nope, nothing on the docket currently.  He's like Richard Donner these days, lost in the producer's labyrinth.  Not a silver screen premiere in sight anymore.
So clearly there's no need to run my special Spielberg software that I've been loathe to use these days anyway.  At least until I learn how to use those stupid "vectors."  Sheesh.  But I am perusing her IMDb C.V. and, while the George W. Bush 2000s were fun for her... living in obscurity, doing the occasional short... it's the 2010s that she's clearly rockstar-ing.  I mean, look at all these hot TV shows that you and I have heard of!  Then there's a TV movie called "Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer."  Also known as The Maze Runner sequel.  That should kill the marketability of labyrinths for decades.  I mean, if you want to make a labyrinth exciting, do like the Doom or Quake series of video games.  I'm still reeling from when I first got a PC and someone had made one of those phony 3D games: you know, a 2D game with multiple levels.  Not enough excitement in it.  Not enough.
But what I'm most intrigued by in her résumé is a little film called The 13th Warrior... I mean, The 13th Floor... oops, I mean THIS 13th FloorIt's known as the other 1999 Matrix in the biz... sorry, I mean MURDER on the 13th Floor.  Because murder's bad enough, but when it happens on the 13th floor?  Oh, dude... that's some crazy-ass Vertigo-type sh... stuff going down.  Now, according to one of the two reviewers who actually saw this movie, it's a futuristic-type thriller with no budget and no acting.  But they do have futuristic toilets!  You know, you take a dump and a voice says "Off the Paleo diet again, I see?  Tisk tisk!" in a British accent.  Um... Simpsons!!! Hel-LOOOOOO!!!????  Also, this guy complains that there appears to be a scene in the movie, obligatory in nature, that's a downright dirty excuse to show Jordan Ladd in her underwear.  Welp, Jordan Ladd is the daughter of Purple Hearts star Cheryl Ladd.  So, in that household, standards are a little different.  But their motto seems to be, if you've got it (a great bikini bod), flaunt it.

Minions... brought to you by Catastrophe! An eBay original series

I just can't take it anymore.  For several things today.  First of all, Photoshop isn't working like it did a mere couple weeks ago.  I can't take it.  Gotta revert to Flash, which any professional will tell you is a big reversion, going from Photoshop to Flash.  I mean, now you're just picking the scabs on purpose.  Let them heal, you idiot!
Second, this "Catastrophe" series has finally pushed me over the edge.  Okay, sure, Minions is everywhere and merchandized to death, especially with everything yellow, apparently... but "Catastrophe"?  What is it about this show?  I'm obsessed now!  What on earth does this show have that merits such a saturation ad campaign?  I mean, aside from a so-so plot and no stars?  I know, I know, they're going to be bigger than "Friends."  Then I'll be sorry that I didn't get in on the ground floor of that.  I can't take it.  Just can't.
And thirdly, the IMDb Charts page.  It's supposed to be the top 10.  This week, there's only eight.  This isn't the Oscar for Best Picture here!  This is the marketplace of winners and losers, and there's always TEN WINNERS.  Always.  How do you get eight?  And now with the addition of Self/less, there's nine!  Almost forgot about that one.  It's the latest from Tarsem Singh, but for some reason his name isn't mentioned in the ads.  Guess he didn't like how it turned out.  And yet, Pitof languishes on the sidelines.  But he's luckier than most, I mean what with a day job to fall back on and all.  Plus, look how handsome of a bastard he is!  Doesn't he look like Corbin Bernsen's kid or something?  Bet he lights up a room full of computer nerds slaving away over an Avid when he walks in!
Anyway, back to business.  Minions debuts at #1, big surprise.  It made about $115 million, which covers about half of its advertising budget.  There's Self/less, or another stop on Ryan Reynolds' express train out of Hollywood.  Deadfall or whatever he's appearing in better be really really profitable!
And then there's The Gallows, the latest low-budget horror pic.  It's the same old story: a Jason Voorhees-type goes around killing a bunch of people by hanging them with a noose.  Well, it's an old Hollywood archetype by now, and an artistic challenge to be sure.  How do you make a serial killer more palpable and commercially viable?  Well, he... and it's usually a he... they have to have some kind of supernatural edge, probably returning from the grave.  And you gotta hand it to Voorhees: he may be a zombie, but his physique's, like, way less decomposed.  Next, you make the victims into caricatures, or just teenagers.  So you get a bunch of 25- to 30-year old teenagers from Central Casting and call it a day.  All those young, photogenic, sexually attractive victims?  Why not?  I mean, we had to put up with them in middle school and high school all the time, so it's not much of a stretch to see them killed off in increasingly gruesome ways in a movie.  I mean, Jesus loves everybody, but on the other hand who wants a Heaven full of Uggos?  Egg-zactly.  And third, the method of killing.  Voorhees had his hockey stick with a blade on it, Freddy Krueger's got the knife glove, Pinhead's got... a face full of pins?  Anyway, the Gallows Man apparently has a killer noose.  Of course, killing by noose is pretty popular these days.  I just saw A Walk Through the Tombstones and, SPOILER ALERT, Liam Neeson has to fend off a guy with a garottiere... I'm sorry, it's called A Walk Among the Tombstones, and apparently the wire loop around his neck is a ligature.  And then, of course, there's the mechanized wire loop used on Brad Pitt in The Counselor.  Almost totally forgot about that one!  Too bad it didn't stay forgotten!  And then, of course, there's Ripley's Game.  According to this webpage with the whole script, the wire loop is called a garrotte.... garrote, garrotte, potato, pa-ta-tah.  I always gravitate to the less popular spelling for some reason.  And so we come to a whole list of garrote-centric tales.  God bless you, the IMDb!  ...Cloud Atlas?  Really?  That movie's got everything!  No wonder that didn't do well!  Hugh Grant's got the anti-Midas touch in reverse these days, the poor handsome wealthy bastard.  He'll get back on the John Daly show if it kills him, by Gumm!
And right there at #20, it's Marathon Man.  That's one of my favorites.  I'll probably always think of that any time I see a garotte-based scene, because Roy Scheider gets a one second jump on the guy, and sticks his arm in front of his face when the guy puts the loop around his neck.  But even though Scheider's got his arm taking the brunt of the wire loop, the guy still tries to strangle Scheider, and a little blood starts to spurt out of Scheider's arm.  This is why I'm always surprised when, in a movie like A Walk Among the Tombstones, when a guy's able to wrest himself free from being choked in this way.  And as the Tombstones "goofs" section points out, Liam's neck is perfectly okay afterwards!  Well, they filmed all those post-strangulation scenes earlier.  Liam's a busy guy, ultimately, anyway, and it's on to the next film for him usually.  No time for small details.  So much for that early retirement he used to always talk about!... oh, yeah!  "The Amazing Falsworth."  Another good one.  It could be Peter Hyams' greatest work as a director.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Clan of the Ice Bear

Guess I just can't bear to write about this one, I like it so much.  We're back to the "Out of the Inkwell" series, and it's called Modeling.  Sure, they reuse some of the animation too much, and sure, Koko's looking far too slick for his own good (and in this sequence, he can't even maintain a consistent button size!!!) but for those who have been following the evolution of this "Out of the Inkwell" series just might appreciate how Max and company are trying to push the bounds of the possible in this one.  For instance, as usual a hand draws backgrounds and what not, but in a couple of shots, the hand is incorporated with some animation in the same shot!  Gotta give them a little credit, as they're working harder than they thought they'd have to!
Now, there always needs to be a new wrinkle in one of these things.  This time, the "modeling" implied in the title comes in the form of a... um... rather unique-looking fellow.  He must've been a boxer or something, as his nose is rather unusual-looking.  Is that Dave Fleischer as the sculptor?  Alas, the IMDb apparently doesn't know.  I'd try Wikipedia, but I'm too afraid to be disappointed a second time.  Anyway, the subject complains about the bust that Dave is making; I'll let you find out that one for yourself.  Sure, his response is clichéd, but what do you expect?  He's just balancing out the unfairness of an unjust universe in the only way he can.  Meanwhile, Max puts some "energy" into Koko by giving him a pair of ice skates, and then drawing Koko a frozen lake to skate around upon.  Poor Koko, he damn near cuts his own hands off trying to keep his balance on his skates, but soon he becomes a master of ice skating.  The way Koko incorporates the world just outside his field of vision is damn near Spielbergian genius.  ...oh, right.  This is the one that the guy actually notices.
Soon after, Koko creates a proto-Gumby when he climbs out of his two dimensional world and climbs up onto and into the sculpture of the ugly guy.  Is it too much of a stretch to claim that the Fleischers invented the exit in Pac-Man with this sequence?  Probably, but let's face it!  Hyperbole is what blogging's all about.  Anyway, all three humans can't believe what they're seeing!  The ugly guy's so miffed that he storms out of that crazy ol' Fleischer studio.  But before he goes, he grabs a big handful of the clay sculpture and chucks it at Dave for good measure.  Ever the little brother, Dave ducks out of the clay's path, allowing Max to get hit in the face instead... ah, they just edited the film.  Phooey.  I want pain, damn it!  Pain.
And so, since it's near the end of this one-reeler, Koko jumps back into the drawing, then tries to make his escape into the inkwell.  Koko uses a pair of tongs to grab the top of the inkwell, thereby closing it shut behind himself, but this time Max is not in the mood to let bygones be bygones.  For some reason, I'm thinking of that time that some goofball introduced Gloria Allred and a woman who had an affair with Herman Cain.  And yet, Cain goes on to do bits with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  Where's the justice?  Anyway, Max opens up the inkwell and pours out all the ink, thereby... destroying this current instantiation of Koko?  Okay, so even the Fleischers didn't know how to end it.  What can me say?  Me ungrateful audience member.  But again, it's the end of the picture, so Koko's apparently not picking himself up, dusting himself off and wreaking more havoc just now.

****
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Ice Cube

...Cube?  Seriously?  I guess everyone really does wanna direct!  I was going to see how Ice Cube is connected to Spielberg, but really, once a guy's been directed by Fred Durst... the rest of the world just looks like a pansy or something.  I mean, after all, Spielberg and Ice Cube were both interviewed by Jiminy Glick, so what's the point of my special software?  Do that!  Talk to Glick!

Is the Terminator rushing or dragging?

And so it's the big July 4th weekend, usually reserved for the latest installment of Men in Black or, really, any Will Smith movie once upon a time.  Not so much anymore.  But the big debut this week is the latest installment of the Terminator movies.  I haven't been watching the Terminator TV series on Fox, so I don't know if those plot threads will converge with the movie or what.  The unofficial buzz campaign for the movie swears that there's a plot point that you'll never see coming.  Okay, maybe not like The Crying Game, but still!  You'll want to send an intern to check it out.
However, for those of you still clamoring for the triumph of indie film at the box office, take heart!  A couple debut saplings this week enter the crowded forest and get themselves a little ol' tasty sunlight.  There's Magic Mike XXL... for the ladies, I'm assuming... and some men... and for those of you who want a little more story, there's My Name is Earl... oh, right, I mean "My Name is Earl."  Gotta use the proper notation.  Or, for those in the know, Raising Arizona: The TV Series.  Incidentally, it's a good trick.  See, each episode of Earl revolved around him making amends to someone or something he slighted once in his short life.  At the end of the first episode, he said something like "One down, Nine-Hundred and Eighty-Seven to go," thereby assuring a long run on TV.  Aim for the stars, but hit London... my apologies, the film is actually called I and Earl and the Dying Girl.  Again, apologies.  It's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl... but TECHNICALLY it should be I and Earl.  You know, PROPER GRAMMAR?!!  I know, I know.  They focus tested I and Earl and people found it skewed too ivory tower.  This is a movie for the masses, after all!  Gotta dumb things down a little bit!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Tantalizing Fly

Okay, I made a promise to myself that I was going to be a more prolific film reviewer here, and seeing as how I've got a list of fifteen films, I better get cracking!  Since I just did The Tantalizing Fly, why not segue into The Fly (1958)?  Saw that recently on Turner Classic Movies and... wow!  Wotta movie!  Why, it's prime for a remake and a lame sequel... oh, right.  Anyway, the picture quality was pretty crisp, so kudos to Turner Classic Movies for that.  They're entering the HD era full bore, which means that the Turner family will soon have to create another channel that doesn't show movies made after 1968, perhaps after Robert Osborne passes on, something like that.  Meanwhile, Bob Dorian's still chopped liver.
Apparently the original story of The Fly has a basis in French Canada, which apparently was lost in Cronenberg's remake.  Probably for the best.  Also, the story is told in flashback by the wife.  Spoiler alert: she sort of plays Dr. Kevorkian for her aggrieved / aggravated husband, but for the benefit of keeping the audience in the dark for the horrible plot surprises to come, she implicates herself in her husband's murder, parsing her language carefully ... apparently to maximize her own guilt.  Wonder what Dershowitz thinks of all this... ah, who cares.  He's just an appeals lawyer, and it seems he's pulled the ladder up behind him, because there's, like, no other appeals lawyer on our national stage!  What the Dersh?!
Anyway, to make a long story short, the protagonist of this story is a happy-go-lucky scientist named Andre Delambre, played by someone named David Hedison.  And while Jeff Goldblum's transformation in Cronenberg's Fly is gradual, Hedison's is physically instantaneous, and his mental state about the whole thing a close second.  I've never seen a character so positive turn bitter so quickly!  But he maintains some eloquence at first; I believe he says something about "some things weren't meant to be tampered with."  I guess they all say that.  Take Dr. Catheter in Gremlins 2, par ehemplay.  But anyone who's dabbled in the field of software programmery will feel right at home with Delambre right away, as it seems that a giant Univac-ish computer is at the heart of his experiments...
I should probably mention that Delambre is attempting to make a pioneering leap forward in man's ability to transport matter from point A to point B.  After seeing this movie, I ain't gettin' in no booth like that EVER!  I don't trust it.  Star Trek is a fantasy.  You're telling me that nothing ever breaks?  No fat Teamster in low pants ever has to fix any of this stuff?  It's all at the panels; it's just a matter of Uhura pushing a few buttons, and it's fixed.  The Star Trek teleportation technology may be unbreakable, but the ship's shields always seem to get a workout, that's for sure!  Anyway, as Dr. Delambre explains, in order to transport something from point A to point B, through wires, it has to be disintegrated, then re-integrated in the other booth.  Um... I ain't lettin' anybody dis-ANYTHING to me!  Period.  Especially my brain.  And, of course, the software programmer types can have a good laugh about that.  You know, something like, good luck reassembling something made of 1x10^28 atoms with ... what?  About 4K of RAM at best?  The movies make it look so easy.
But the filmmaking's just that good, that you get caught up in this unique dilemma.  Oh, why can't one man's technological advantage ever work out?  Take Matthew Broderick in WarGames, for instance.  This director named Kurt Neumann does his damnedest to make The Fly seem like a Hitchcock picture.  And according to this IMDb page, Neumann didn't live to see its success.  The guy practically died in the director's chair, for God's sake!  They didn't even mention that on TCM!  No respect, I tell ya.
You'll of course remember the film's finale from the Simpsons Halloween spoof, of course.  With the transport booths in tatters, Delambre's fate is all but assured.  He'd rather die as a horrible mutant than try to live to see if the damage could be repaired.  I guess man will just have to walk from point A to point B after all.  But you do have to give credit to the clean engineering work involved in the head transplant that ensues!  A tiny fly with a human head, and a human with a giant fly head.  In addition to transportation, Delambre also discovered miniaturization and... enlargification?  You get the idea.  MORE SPOILERS: the police officer who gets told this amazing tale goes to look at this tiny fly with a white head.  He goes to the industrial-strength spider web next to the bench to find that the legend of the white-headed fly are true.  Its tiny human screams for help are too much, and with that evil spider closing in, the police officer can't help but squash the poor fly to death. 
The irony is not lost on Vincent Price, Delambre's brother... oh, I forgot!  Vincent Price is in this, for God's sake!  Okay, not his most flamboyent, quintessential role, to be sure, but still!  Okay, sure, it's in his IMDb Top 4, but I still felt cheated.  Not to mention that the guy made his cat disappear.  Jerk.  Anyway, so the inspector's all ready to send the wife to the chair for her act of self-termination assistance, even though clearly the husband could've pushed the button himself, then run over to stick his head in the industrial strength walnut cracker.  And yet, for his act of squashing the creepiest fly in all of Sci-Fi cinema history?  He'll probably get suspension with pay at best.  But the psychological damage has been done.  "I shall never forget that scream as long as I live..."  And that, my friends, is what going to the movies is all about.

****
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Friday, July 03, 2015

Short Reviews - July 2015

The American President - Just saw a documentary where Rob Reiner mentioned that he offered the part to... the President, that is... to Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, and Michael Douglas.  Now, sure, I could be snarky and say, "Well, he got his THIRD choice, anyway!" but on the other hand, Douglas doesn't think of himself as a director like the other two do.  Then again, Redford was just coming off of Indecent Proposal at the time, so what was he being so snooty about?

American Ultra - In the commercial, Jesse Eisenberg tells someone over the phone, "Oh my God, I just killed two people."  Ah, how the line between comedy and tragedy is blurred these days.  Now, this was written by Max Landis, so clearly this is based on that awkward time in the Landis household in the '80s when... I know, I know, I'm the tasteless one!!

Cash McCall - AKA The Business Practices of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital

"Catastrophe" -  Yeah, Fools Rush In was fun... boy, maybe it's just me, but I am getting really tired of the incessant Facebook ads for this thing.  This ad campaign needs to be aborted.

The East - Danielle Macdonald and Rebel Wilson were at a premiere last night, and they actually ripped each other's throats out!  No kidding!  Kinda gruesome; thank GOD there's no video of it

Enigma (1983) - This film proves that the Soviet sickle can also be used for the letter "G"!

Fantastic Four Reboot - I know that I should be excited about this, what with the next generation of special effects for guys what jump out of planes in IMAX 3D and all, but c'mon.  Replacing Michael Chiklis as the "Thing"?  I doth protest.  Also, going from Jessica Alba to Kate Mara, I hate to be sexist, and I'm not that big of a fan of Alba, but it still feels like a step down.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - ...wait a minute.  This isn't in Jonathan Schmock's IMDb Top 4?  You know, the SNOOTY WAITER?  I weep for the Internet.

"The Good Wife" - With Margo Martindale as Willa Eastman!  A woman who successfully championed (an) underdog presidential candidates in Iowa and who hides her intelligence and cunning under a fake, folksy charm, according to CBS!  You're welcome.

Hitman: Agent 47 - Yeah, the 47 Ronin are fun.  I was getting a kind of Punisher sequel impending failure vibe from this, but I'm sure this one will do a lot better.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation -  Ethan Hunt takes on a ruthless organization bent on world domination... but he's a little torn, because this same ruthless organization is hooking him up with a hot new girlfriend.  Oh s'z'nap!

Night of the Lepus - NOT Janet Leigh's finest hour

North - I'm going to steal my dad's joke... Rob Reiner's writing a new autobiography about his directing days called "After 'North', It All Went South"

The Package - AKA The Expendables 1.5?

The Return of Doctor X - This is my new favourite pre-1941 Bogey film... okay, okay, it's the only one I've seen.

Ricki and the Flash - Well, for me, it feels more like Pan and the Flash.

Secret in their Eyes - Welp, it took almost 24 years, but this is as probably as close a chance as I'll get to saying... who's the Martin Burney NOW, bitch?

"Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!" - Yes, too bad the execs at "SyFy" didn't say that a little more strongly.

Shaun the Sheep Movie - Another home run for the Wallace and Gromit guy.  So, what's "Sheep in the Big City"?  Chopped liver, so to speak? ... ah, who cares.  That Mo Willems guy's doing all right for himself.

Southpaw - Oh my God!  They hurt Gylly!  You bastards!

Stick - With Burt Reynolds as... insert cheap joke here

Straight Outta Compton - On the one hand, fans of the early days of rap in the 1980s are going to hail this movie as a triumph, and some may even say that this is an early Oscar contender.  They can do the 'pro' side of the argument better than I ever could; I'd probably throw in the word 'crucible' and try to avoid the word 'def' to give it more grab-it-ass... gravitas.  But then, most of these same people will wonder to themselves "F. Gary Gray as director?  Really?  What, Carl Franklin can't do silver screen cinema anymore?  There's serious stuff in this story too!"

Trainwreck - Everyone's cheering on Amy Schumer... except some of her fellow comedians, of course.  Dave Koz, probably, for one.

Two-Lane Blacktop - Okay, so Monte Hellman's not the greatest director in the world, and this is probably the best thing he's ever done... but you know what he just did?  He put a bunch of solar panels on his house!  Your stock is rising, #2!!!  Sure, he did it just to save money on his power bill, but still!  Give 'em HELL, Monte!  ...I guess he gets that a lot.  Also, if you live in the California area, please visit Sunrun dot com for more information about how YOU can go solar today!... okay, they're website looks a little too generic, but it's really them.

Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! - ...see what I mean?  Not the greatest...

Vacation - ...holy Crap!  It is a Griswold movie!  I'm just trying to figure out which Rusty Griswold is Ed Helms modeled after.  Probably not Anthony Michael Hall...